“I’ve a soft spot fur daft romantics” – Hello, I am Scotland

Oyster is a brilliant collection of modern poetry by Michael Pedersen, displaying a wonderful combination of wit, relatability and observation that leaves the reader feeling fresh. There is real narrative to all of Pedersen’s poetry, to a point where you don’t need the recorded releases of some of the poems to truly hear his voice. Like his other work, Play With Me, he offers dalliances in romance and politics back to back, and presents the world through his eyes, accompanied with a wry smile.

“The chemistry between Pedersen and Hutchison was electric”

The book was launched by Pedersen and the illustrator of the book, Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, with a tour of the UK including nights at the Edinburgh Fringe and more recently a night at Rough Trade Nottingham. With live readings of the poems, recited by heart, and acoustic performances of hits from Frightened Rabbit’s discography, the night was full of high points. The chemistry between Pedersen and Hutchison was electric, based on a common line of humour and mutual appreciation. This is also seen strongly within the anthology, as the illustrations provided by Hutchison bounce well off the lines written by Pedersen. The relationship works, and highlights the best in each other through their harmonious talents. It’s a partnership that I look forward to seeing more from in the future.

“There is often two voices at play”

When it comes to Pedersen’s poetry there is a lot of raw emotion, with FUCK! and What Was Supposed To Be An Angry One coming to mind. These poems encourage you to empathise with his struggles, whether it be the aftermath of a conflict with a significant other, or the moments of reliving an ill manoeuvred moment over and over again in your brain. There is often two voices at play with the narrator pulling voices from the music he is listening to or simply a text insert, adding a dynamic to the structure of the poem and asserting Pedersen’s role as a thoroughly modern poet.

“His pieces allow for a riveting reading experience”

In contrast, poems such as Limelight Bar and Meadowbank present a more removed view on, again, a conversation. These anecdotal tales are more of political fables, covering the domestication and desensitisation to the modern far right, normalisation of racist attitudes, and the struggles that are faced by those in modern day Britain. The juxtaposition of the passion of the romantic notes of this collection, with their ameliorated language and rapid blasts through personal thought, with the reactive political pieces allows for a riveting reading experience.

“Full of fundamental wit and joy”

These hard hitting and compelling moments are then pitched against more innocent and playful beats such as Highland Koo. It feels like a love letter to Scotland, celebrating it icons as well as taking a cheeky prod at the tourism that comes about as a result. The very set up, a stand off between our poet and the cow, emphasises the fantastical feel that this poem leaves with the reader. It really hit me as a stand out moment of the collection, full of fundamental wit and joy.

“Displays his heart to be that of a romantic”

I agree with Pedersen in the line cited at the beginning of this review, taken from the concluding poem Hello, I Am Scotland. I too have a soft spot for romantics, and that is surely what Pedersen can be classed as. His imagery, full of winding parallels and constructs, displays his heart to be that of a romantic. This collection is fantastic, perfect to read when days are dull to make them bright, or when they are shining to make them brighter.

Holly Wilson

Live Images Courtesy of  Ryan McGoverne, Press Images Courtesy of Kat Gollock

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